The Obama Administration’s recently-finalized Clean Power Plan sets achievable goals for each state to reduce its carbon emissions. But it doesn’t say exactly how. It’s up to each state to choose from a battery of measures, from switching away from coal to gas power, to enacting energy efficiency and carbon tax programs.
The graphic here gives a sense of the task at hand. Put together by the World Resources Institute, it shows which states have the greatest emissions and where those emissions come from, including transport, electricity generation, and industrial causes.
The big takeaway is that some states are much more responsible for climate change than others. Just 10 account almost half the overall burden, with Texas (12.5%), California (7%) and Pennsylvania (4.3%) the most polluting states. By contrast, the 10 states with the least emissions account for just 3% of emissions overall.
Electricity production represents more than 30% of total emissions, but that sector’s contribution to state-by-state emissions varies. In West Virginia and Kentucky, two big coal producers, it makes up more than 50% of the total, for example, while in Vermont and Idaho its role is negligible.
WRI points out that energy efficiency standards are generally an economically efficient way to reduce climate impacts. Its analysis shows that 24 states have saved an average of $2-$5 for every $1 invested. That’s also the Obama Administration’s thinking, too. Though it wants to states to move towards gas, solar, and wind power at the expense of coal, it also sees a lot of mileage in more efficient cars, buildings, and appliances. These measures save money, boost the economy and they don’t come with the political baggage of other climate measures.
For more charts and graphs, see WRI’s Climate Data Explorer tool here.